Potential Defensive Coordinator Candidates for Bucs

If Dirk Koetter becomes the Bucs' next head coach, he needs to bring in a strong defensive coordinator. Here are some names that should be considered.

It has been very quiet on the Bucs' coaching front, which means one of two things; either the Bucs are locked into Dirk Koetter being their next head coach or they're secretly working on a surprise candidate.

Let's say Dirk Koetter ends up being their guy to replace Lovie Smith. We know the offense will be fine and stable, but what about the defense?

A majority of the team's resources will be invested into building the defense over the next couple of years. The Bucs must have the right defensive mind running things on defense, while Koetter runs the show on offense.

Here are some of the top defensive coordinator candidates I would want to interview:

Jim Schwartz (Former Lions head coach and Titans/Bills defensive coordinator): Schwartz is the top defensive coordinator available. He runs a 4-3 attacking scheme. With the Bills in 2014, Schwartz's defense was 4th in points allowed (18.1 ppg), 4th in yards allowed (312.2 ypg), and 1st in sacks (54). Schwartz has the mentality that the Bucs defense has been lacking.

Mike Smith (Former Falcons head coach): If Koetter is the head coach, he might turn to the head coach he worked under in Atlanta to run his defense. Smith's defenses as the Jaguars defensive coordinator from 2003-07 were tough and physical led by Marcus Stroud and John Henderson at defensive tackle. Smith allowed his defensive coordinators to call plays while he was head coach of the Falcons from 2008-14, so going back to calling the plays could be a question. Mike Smith's background is with the 4-3 scheme.

Vance Joseph (Bengals DBs coach): Joseph's name may be the hottest name when it comes to a rising defensive coordinator. For the past 10 years, Joseph has been the DBs coach for the 49ers, Texans, and Bengals. Joseph has worked in multiple schemes, but the assumption is that he would run a 4-3 scheme that attacks, much like the Bengals do now. (Signed with Dolphins)

Pepper Johnson (Jets DL coach): This may be an interesting name, but hear me out. Pepper Johnson has worked as an assistant with the Patriots from 2000-13, was the Bills DL coach under Schwartz in 2014 (54 sacks), and is currently the DL coach for Todd Bowles with the Jets. Johnson has worked with the 3-4, 4-3, and hybrid defensive schemes. With each of the teams he has been with, those defenses have been physical, tough, and successful. It may be an outside-the-box type candidate, but I think it's definitely worth an interview to see what kind of plan Johnson would have. Oh, and Jason Licht worked with both Bill Belichick and Todd Bowles, so he can get the real scoop on how Pepper Johnson might be as a defensive coordinator.

Ed Donatell (Bears DBs coach): Donatell can bring experience with recent success back to being an NFL defensive coordinator. Donatell has been a defensive coordinator for the Packers (2000-03), Falcons (2004-06), and the Redskins (2008). Since 2011, Donatell has been the DBs coach under Vic Fangio with the 49ers and Bears. In 2015, Donatell helped turn the Bears pass defense around from being one of the worst in 2014 to being 4th in 2015. Donatell does run a 3-4 scheme, which may rub some Bucs fans the wrong way, but it's more important to get the right coach than the right scheme. With $50 million in cap space and high draft picks, the Bucs will be able to bring in players to run whatever scheme they go with.

Kevin Ross (Cardinals DBs coach): This is a connection candidate as Ross was in Arizona while Jason Licht was still a member of the front office. Ross has been a long time DBs coach, but has never gotten the opportunity to be a defensive coordinator. Ross' defensive backs have been outstanding in Arizona. Patrick Peterson is an elite talent, Tyrann Mathieu has developed into a big time playmaker, and Deone Buchanon has turned into a hybrid player who is all over the field. the Cardinals run a hybrid type of defensive scheme, which is the assumption of what Ross would run.

Jerome Harrison (Cowboys DBs coach): Harrison has gotten some minor sniffs as a head coaching candidate, so why not include him as a candidate to be a defensive coordinator. I know Bucs fans have longed for a return of Rod Marinelli, but he's not leaving Dallas. Harrison has been the Cowboys' DBs coach since 2012, and may be primed to become a defensive coordinator. he has worked with the Jets and Browns as well, but my assumption would be that Harrison runs a 4-3 scheme much like Marinelli.


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